Some new media myths

As you can probably guess I spent a lot of time researching and writing my Winterval essay. Throughout the process I often just sat there, annoyed and depressed with each utterly ignorant repetition of something that was always utterly untrue – and obviously untrue. Fittingly via Twitter I was informed that on the day I finally made the essay available the Winterval myth was being repeated by yet another journalist – this time Nick Robinson on his BBC blog. I guess we can’t accept proper journalism from a man who is essentially nothing more than a paid gossip.

It was also a day in which the usual suspects were inventing new reasons to be outraged. The Daily Mail was accusing the BBC Blue Peter team of ‘sacrilege’ for supposedly burning the Blue Peter advent crown. As Tabloid Watch points out, this is complete rubbish and the photos that accompany the article clearly show that the crown was not burnt at all. Yet they still printed the story as fact. It is not bad journalism, it is ludicrous journalism. The reader can see that the story is complete rubbish. Essentially the journalist is asking the reader to literally abandon their senses and take their word for it instead. Still, readers do fall for this, and worse, other media outlets repeat the story as fact – in this case Carolyn Hitt for Wales Online. She manages to get all of this:

Christmas is so frazzled this year even the Blue Peter Advent crown has spontaneously combusted.

Actually, that’s not strictly true. In an act of sacrilegious vandalism, the presenters set fire to the coat-hanger and tinsel icon of our Christmas Past.

In a bizarre studio stunt, which also involved the ceremonial melting of a Blue Peter badge, a “chain reaction machine” turned the Advent crown to ashes.

Shame on you Blue Peter.

You have trampled on one of most precious Yuletide memories.

The Advent Crown countdown was an essential part of our 1970s childhoods.

Christmas could not begin until John Noakes lit the first corner of the coat-hanger.

By the time Lesley Judd had set the fourth candle aglow, we were at festive fever pitch.

But a 21st century Christmas on children’s telly is evidently more Jackass than Jackanory. Or even a bit Dennis Wheatley with all those witch-crafty flames.

What next?

Sacrificing virgins in the Blue Peter Garden?

So how does one recapture the Magic of Christmas when even Blue Peter has burnt out?

Out of something that was invented by the Daily Mail. All those column inches for something that never happened.

Every time I see bad journalism now I see flashbacks of the thousands of words, the despair, the accusations, the blame, the hatred, the bigotry and the xenophobia that were all tagged onto the Winterval myth. Something that never happened.

Likewise, the absolute rubbish written about immigrants by the Mail yesterday provided the basis for an entire column from Melanie Phillips who swallows the Mail’s lies whole and adds layer upon layer of bitter, twisted and outraged distortion to them – as is her way. She states:

Such payments are intended to relieve their own poverty. So if welfare recipients can afford to give some of their income away like this, it might be thought that, far from amounting to no more than breadline subsistence, welfare benefits are rather too generous.

The more fundamental point, however, is that this is money provided for the hardship relief of people who are living in Britain and contributing to its economy. It is emphatically not provided for the relief of those abroad who have nothing whatever to do with Britain — except milk its coffers…

she is trying to pretend that welfare payments to people living in Britain are in fact a branch of overseas aid.

But they are nothing of the kind. And it is outrageous to extol their diversion to prop up the needy abroad. For this is ­swindling the British taxpayer, who understands that this money is to be used to support the needy at home.

That indeed is what a ‘welfare state’ means. It is a compact between Britain’s government and those who reside in the country. The idea that it is to be used instead as a kind of global poor relief fund is utterly bizarre.

Just one slight problem Melanie, Harriet Harman was not talking about immigrants on welfare sending home money because they get so much of it from the state they can afford to send it home. She was talking about welfare payments that are paid to WORKING PEOPLE – like tax credits and so forth. The benefits that any UK employee is entitled to. At no point was it suggested that unemployed immigrants were sending home chunks of welfare because they had more than enough to live on.

When I read Melanie Phillips I understand extremism. I know that there is no debating, no reasoning, no exchange of facts that could ever convince her that she is utterly wrong about 99% of the things she writes about. So, what can you do?

The Madness of Melanie Phillips

So, Dr Andrew Wakefield is now just plain old Andrew Wakefield after being struck off for – in the words of the Telegraph’s Tom Chivers:

[being] one of the principal authors of perhaps the stupidest and most unnecessary health scare of recent Western history… [and] for being “dishonest”, “misleading” and “irresponsible” in his research into the MMR vaccine and its purported links to autism.

If you want a wonderful comic-book account of the whole affair then go here and read this wonderful summary – pay close attention to the role that the media played in hyping up the non-existent link and making measles commonplace once again.

If you’re aware of this story then you’ll be aware of just how completely discredited both Wakefield and his ‘research’ is. You’d also probably expect an author of a book titled ‘The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle over God, Truth, and Power’ which is supposedly about our irrationality:

In what we tell ourselves is an age of reason, we are behaving increasingly irrationally. An astonishing number of people subscribe to celebrity endorsed cults, Mayan armageddon prophecies, scientism, and other varieties of new age, anti-enlightenment philosophies. Millions more advance popular conspiracy theories: AIDS was created in a CIA laboratory, Princess Diana was assassinated, and the 9/11 attacks were an inside job.

To be glad that rationality has won the day and Andrew Wakefield has been struck off. However, you then realise that the author of the above book is Melanie Phillips, and she is – for want of a better phrase – absolutely batshit insane. For starters, her book seeks to blame irrationality on:

the slow but steady marginalization of religion. We tell ourselves that faith and reason are incompatible, but the opposite is the case. It was Christianity and the Hebrew Bible, Phillips asserts, that gave us our concepts of reason, progress, and an orderly world on which science and modernity are based.

And that:

Without its religious traditions, the West has drifted into mass derangement where truth and lies, right and wrong, victim and aggressor are all turned upside down. Scientists skeptical of global warming are hounded from their posts, Israel is demonized, and the US is vilified over the war on terror—all on the basis of blatant falsehoods and obscene propaganda.

One imagines that Melanie Phillip’s arguments are undermined somewhat for her track record of drawing vastly different conclusions from the witnessing of any event. Her verdict on Andrew Wakefield being struck off is this short statement utterly bereft of any relationship to reality:

Following the risible kangaroo court set up by the General Medical Council Andrew Wakefield, the doctor at the heart of the MMR controversy, has now been struck off the medical register while his colleagues have yet to learn their own fate. This is a tragedy and a travesty. I believe a monstrous injustice has been done here, which has crucified the one doctor who tried to alleviate and prevent the suffering of a particular group of children and which has also betrayed their parents. The full story of how this sinister travesty was accomplished and the full range of people who were complicit in it — along with what it means for both medicine and public safety — has yet to be revealed. Over time, I hope this will eventually be achieved.

I’d suggest after reading the above statement we could all be justifiably skeptical that Melanie Phillips has anything rational to add to the topics of global warming, Israel and the war on terror. The worst thing is that this isn’t out of character for Melanie at all, she has a proud record of arguing ridiculous points.

Like, for example, claiming that the BBC’s decision to sack Carol Thatcher for her racist remark was:

a chilling insight into the totalitarian universe of the closed BBC mind… If the BBC had intended to convince the public that it had departed altogether from reality and common sense and resided instead in some alternative Stalinist universe, it could hardly have done a better job

Or, for example, claiming that a 13 year old father (who turned out in the end not to even be the father):

vividly reveals how our children are being abandoned and betrayed… And we all know why this is. A sexual free-for-all legitimated by the mantra of ‘lifestyle choice’, promoted from the top by narcissistic liberals and funded at the bottom by welfare benefits, has caused a catastrophic rate of family breakdown and fragmentation which is now repeating itself in an endless generational cycle

Or, for example, claiming that the increased deposits in sharia banking in the UK means that those banks accepting deposits are:

effectively endors[ing] the extremist ideology behind it of conquering the west for Islam

Or, for example, claiming that recent teenage pregnancy figures are evidence (even though with one odd exception teenage pregnancy rates are falling year-on-year) that:

Labour is doing nothing less than trying to reshape the sexual and moral behaviour of an entire society

Or, for example, equating a nurse being suspended for praying at work and a ‘private remark’ (what, it never left the confines of her head?) made by Carol Thatcher being reported with the UK:

sliding inexorably into a culture of control which would have been very familiar to the Stasi or the KGB

Or, for example, how turning away a slightly batty Dutch MP was a sign that Britain is:

sleepwalking towards cultural suicide… If anyone had doubted the extent to which Britain has capitulated to Islamic terror, the banning of Geert Wilders should surely open their eyes

If, after all this, you still think Melanie Phillips has anything sane or rational to add to any debate, then I’d politely suggest that you’re a bit mad as well.

Melanie Phillips Defends Anti-gay preacher

Melanie Phillips has for a few years now been writing in defence of ever more untenable positions, largely as far as I can tell because she seems to have no connection whatsoever to reality. Today’s article is no different, in that where see shes outrage and Orwellian dystopia, I imagine the majority of people see decency and modernity.

Her article – titled: ‘The Orwellian logic that’s turning the faith Britain was built on into a crime‘ – is attempting to be a defence of Christianity, but in reality it is a defence of intolerance and hatred, the very things that Melanie argues are causing the destruction of Christianity in Britain. It is a favourite theme of Melanie’s and today’s example is particularly unpleasant:

Terrifying as this may seem, the attempt to stamp out Christianity in Britain appears to be gathering pace.

Dale McAlpine was preaching to shoppers in Workington, Cumbria, that homosexuality is a sin when he found himself carted off by the police, locked up in a cell for seven hours and charged with using abusive or insulting words or behaviour.

It appears that two police community support officers – at least one of whom was gay – claimed he had caused distress to themselves and members of the public.

Under our anti-discrimination laws, such distress is not to be permitted.

I find it pretty incredible that anyone would want to openly defend a preacher raving about the evils of homosexuality in public. I really cannot understand how anyone could think that this is a good thing. Yet Melanie wants to defend the right of this preacher to shout out his beliefs based on a constantly evolving book of dubious origins and irrelevant messages. But she does, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Melanie was still keen on burning people who suggest that the world is round and revolves around the sun. She really is that backward.

She drivels on about ‘intolerance’ in an attempt to allow this christian preacher to preach intolerance, yet she doesn’t seem to realise what the real intolerance is. However, if my previous post highlighted the dumbest kind of person that posts comments on the Daily Mail website, then let me redress the balance by posting something really quite wonderful that I read underneath Melanie’s article:

a_fine_point

I really cannot add anything further to that, accept to say that is something that the utterly insane Melanie Phillips will never understand and that this comment received over 100 negative ratings.